Coal Tattoo

CONSOL makes deal, gets EPA permit approval

SNL Financial appears to be the first to report the news that CONSOL Energy has reached a deal with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for a Clean Water Act permit covering the company’s proposed Spring Branch No. 3 Deep Mine in Mingo County, W.Va.

According to the report:

After winning concessions from CONSOL of Kentucky Inc., the EPA has signed off on an application for a Section 404 Clean Water Act permit for the Spring Branch No. 3 deep mine project in Mingo County, W.Va.

This application was one of dozens placed into an “enhanced” review process by the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2009. The corps is the agency responsible for issuing these permits, with increasingly active advice from the EPA under the Obama administration. This “enhanced” review process is one of several EPA actions over the past couple of years related to water permitting for coal mining that have triggered several pending lawsuits by the coal industry and the states of Kentucky and West Virginia.

A copy of an EPA letter to the Army Corps of Engineers, outlining the deal, is available online here.

The letter explains that CONSOL agreed to changes that reduced the footprint of the surface disturbance for the deep mine from 57 acres to 19 acres. The company also reduced linear stream impacts from 3,626 feet to 871 feet. This cut back the amount of coal the company would mine from 2.85 million tons of coal to 2.77 million tons, or about 3 percent.

EPA said in its letter:

It is EPA’s position that this project has been substantially improved through significant new avoidance and minimization measures. Stream impacts have been reduced by nearly 76 percent and the total surface area of disturbance has been reduced by approximately 66 perent.

Upon completion of operations, the applicant has agreed to remove all fill placed in waters of the U.S. and to restore affected streams to the pre-project condition. Notably, while the environmental footprint in waters of the U.S. has been significantly reduced, nearly 97 percent of the coal reserves that wee originally proposed for mining will be extracted under the applicant’s revised proposal.

See previous posts about EPA deals to permit the Hobet 45 and Pine Creek mines.